Dead Ringer

📅 Published on May 7, 2022

“Dead Ringer”

Written by Dale Thompson
Edited by Craig Groshek
Thumbnail Art by Craig Groshek
Narrated by N/A

Copyright Statement: Unless explicitly stated, all stories published on CreepypastaStories.com are the property of (and under copyright to) their respective authors, and may not be narrated or performed, adapted to film, television or audio mediums, republished in a print or electronic book, reposted on any other website, blog, or online platform, or otherwise monetized without the express written consent of its author(s).

🎧 Available Audio Adaptations: None Available

ESTIMATED READING TIME — 12 minutes

Rating: 10.00/10. From 1 vote.
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I am as accurate as a bullet without discrimination.  I always have been.  I am the unpretentious sort with calculated intent.  I use big words, little words, sometimes no words at all.  I am not the type who likes a face-to-face chin wag.  Working the graveyard shift – literally – is a solitary job.  I watch over the dead.  I make my living by listening for the sound of a bell.  It seems careless sorts are burying their friends and loved ones alive these days.  You know, with the plague and other foul contagious diseases, people are being buried, or as I like to say, “planted” or “earthed,” while they yet have a heartbeat and are breathing the air.  This has become more common than one might think, and it is seldom reported to the papers because of the implications and lawsuits it would bring.  What better way to rid a person from another person’s life but to pronounce them deceased and have them hauled away to be earthed six feet down?  If it wasn’t for me and my keen senses, especially hearing, there might be more angry spouses planting their other half deep down. So, as caretaker, I have the arduous task of gravedigging, and I answer the bell.

The bell is placed atop the grave and a cord is run from the bell down into the coffin itself.  If the presumed dead is, in fact, not really dead and that person awakes from their unconscious moribund state, they have a window of hope to tug on the cord, and the bell will ring, signifying that a living person has been buried alive.  That is when I come running, shovel in hand, and dig frantically to free the person from the grave.  It is not a hard job normally because most people buried are dead.  Consequently, for every person I would exhume alive, I would get a bonus from my employer.  Though I have yet to pull a single person alive from the grave or even hear a bell, I have a duty to continue my vigilance.  These are hard times for people with my education – or the lack thereof.  Unemployment is high, and the deaths from the plague are at an all-time high.  No one is hiring out of fear that if they do not already have this dreaded disease, they may unwittingly welcome it into their workplace.  I am protected out here alone, in my solitude.  I get a bit of reading done.  I live in what I would call a shack on the cemetery property.  This is one of the perks I received when I took on this job.  I have a stove and a bed, and that’s about all I need.  The cemetery folks have provided me with all of the digging tools that are required for the job.  I dig the graves during the day with two other men who both live off-site.  They go home to their families, and I remain a fixture in the graveyard, listening.  I am listening for a bell from someone who has probably already attempted to claw themselves free.  They most likely would not know that the cord is tied to their wrist, which extends to the bell.

I heard today that both of the other gravediggers had become ill.  I pray they have not come down with this cursed plague.  I spent 6 hours digging with them just yesterday.  So far, so good; I remain well, well enough to listen for any disturbance of the bell.  One clank, and I will be on top of that grave in a heartbeat.  I do feel tired, worn out from all of that digging. Tomorrow is an even a bigger day.  I have been contracted to dig three more graves.  There is talk – and you did not hear it from me – that the cemetery officials have spoken privately about exhuming coffins and disposing of the bones and remains inside, as gross as that sounds.  You see, we are running out of space.  They are privately discussing reusing the coffins and plopping them back in the same hole, or maybe worse than that; there is a possibility I might be ordered to bury one on top of the other!  This information came to me by clandestine means in all confidentiality from a young girl who brings me my lunch and dinner daily.  Along with the food, she never fails to deliver notes with the latest news.  That is another perk of this job; they feed you so you don’t have to have contact with the living. Mary, the girl that drops off my food, puts it in a box away from the grave shack, and I retrieve it at designated times so that we are never there at the same time.  I have seen her from a distance.  She is a pretty young thing, far too young for a man my age.

This night was fair and pleasant, with a gibbous moon looming low in the sky.  It was quite large, reflecting the sun’s light and projecting mysterious shadows upon the graveyard.  The way the shadows danced made the headstones appear to be gently rocking when in fact, I knew it was an illusion.  I had just eaten my meal.  It was a ham sandwich with cold beans and a carrot.  There was a gentle, diminutive breeze cooling down what had been a hot day.  I was thankful for this relief.  My thoughts were on tomorrow’s work.  I know the Bible says, ‘take no thought for tomorrow,’ but I can’t help it in these trying times.

I thought I heard something.  I stopped what I was doing and focused know how impertinent it was to listen.  The shack was equidistant to the stone walls of the cemetery.  Being centered had its advantages and disadvantages.  It sounded like a chime.  I concentrated as I stepped out of my humble dwelling.  Scrutinizing the yard visually, I got an eerie sensation like a nagging suspicion that something was out of order.  All of the recent graves had bells. This was mandatory, and I checked the bells daily to ensure the bell was able to be rung. Sometimes a spider would form a web inside the bell and cause the clapper not to do its job.

When I was first hired on, these nightshifts were always suspenseful and creepy.  It took me a few weeks to get to know the place, the sounds, the silence, the movements.  I believed in ghosts until I started here.  I have never seen anything that could not be explained.  I suppose you might accuse me of being a skeptic, and maybe I am, but like I said, nothing haunts this graveyard.

There it was again – I knew that was a ring!  It was a single chime.  I grabbed my shovel and made my way to the fresh graves that had been filled in today.  There were two.  I stood by the headstones eyeing the bells.  I stared intently at the bells, which were side by side, until my eyes began to water.  A ring!  I heard it again.  It wasn’t from either of these but across the yard about three or four rows over.  I hurried with preparedness, ready to act if I had to. I had not heard a bell the whole time I had worked here, but tonight was my night to possibly save a life, free someone from the jaws of death and hell, and get a bonus for my efforts.  There it was again.  I was sure that the grave before me must be the one.  I began to dig!  I sliced the shovel into the dirt with tremendous conviction.  The dirt was fairly loose, so the digging was not difficult.  I made it to the lid of the coffin in record time.  Above me, the bell was clanging away almost like a warning alarm.  I tore at the lid using an iron pry bar to gain leverage.  The sense of urgency fueled my adrenaline.  I didn’t even read the name on the tombstone.  I had no idea if I was rescuing a man or a woman, or it could even be a child.  But this grave was weeks old.  How could anyone have survived for so long?  It was more trouble to remove the lid than to actually dig down, but eventually, the lid snapped and opened.  I stood over the skeletal remains of someone surely dead.  This was not what I expected, but in many respects, I was relieved.  There is no way that this corpse moved in its casket.  No way at all.  How was their bell ringing?  There wasn’t enough wind.  I saw it move, I saw it shaking, heard it ringing.  I swear I saw the tugging on the cord!

Again, a bell!  Ringing elsewhere in the yard!  I returned the lid and pawed my way up and out of the hole.  A light shower was now coming down, and I had left my raincoat in the shack.  It wouldn’t take long at this rate of rainfall for the yard to become saturated.  I had to find the other ringing bell.  I ran, glancing from side to side to the first row of headstones.  I could still hear the ringing.  Once I pinpointed the direction it was resonating from, I carried my shovel and approached the suspected grave.  The cord was being yanked from underground.  I could see it with my own two eyes.  The bell was sounding, my heart was racing, and the rain was picking up, becoming heavier.  I put my foot on the step of the blade and drove the tip into the moist ground.  I repeated the exercise; I dug, deeper and deeper and thanked God when I finally bounced the tip of the shovel off the solid lid.  This was a shallower grave than the previous excavation.  Once more, I popped the lid away and what I saw almost made me spill my guts.  The putrid stench of rotting flesh intoxicated the hole with gases of a repugnant order.  My constitution was strong and resilience held out.  This grave was not as old as the last but had been here long enough for serious decomposition to have set in.  The bell above was still ringing.  This made no sense whatsoever.  It was ludicrous.  The bell discontinued clanging as an even heavier rain fell.  The grave was slippery, but I managed to use my pry bar like a mountaineer pick, and also balanced on the handle of the shovel to extract myself from death’s confines.  ‘This is nonsense,’ I said to myself.  I was a muddy mess, soaked through from this farce.  I was just about to close the grave off when yet again there was ringing; it sounded like two bells this time.  I couldn’t see so well now.  The moon, which once brought partial light to the yard, had all been covered with storm clouds.  I needed a light, but it would take minutes to retrieve a lantern from the shack.  Did I have minutes to spare if someone was depending on me answering their desperate calls?  Because I was so blinded by the rain, I felt it necessary to go for the light. Slipping, sliding, stumbling back to the shack, I garnered the lantern, lit it and returned out into what was now a windy storm.  The bells were ringing but muted due to the howling wind, which seemed to be working against me.  ‘Was the devil awake?’ I thought.  Was he trying to claim the sleeping souls of those alive underground?  Was I engaging with unseen spiritual forces?  Were they ringing the bells now to misdirect and confuse me, so I could not find that one living person among the dead?  It was imperative that I locate the true ringer’s grave in order to recover the living being within.

I decided to go to each grave that had a bell because by this time, Diablo was well at work with his devilish deception.  I would resolve not to allow this archfiend to beat me.  Now on my hands and knees, for I needed to be next to the bells, I crawled from grave to grave, and I tugged on the cords which were attached to the wrist of the presumed dead.  I tugged to see if I felt tension or an attempt to tug back, and on the 6th grave, something below yanked the cord from my hand.  Startled, I fell backward and retreated out of sheer terror.  There was no doubt that there was something alive in this grave.  The force that ripped the cord from my hand was deliberate.  It was not an act of nature.

The downpour made it nearly impossible to keep a grip on the shovel.  I kicked myself for not bringing a pair of gloves with me, but I had no option but to work in these current unseemly conditions.  This was hard-going, for the rain had soaked into the dirt, changing it to heavy mud.  Every scoop I tossed over my shoulder truly felt like the last.  The mud was sticky, and getting it flung off the blade was another laborious job.  At one point, I simply used my hands and scooped it out in an unprofitable fashion.  Because it could not fling far away, I was doing double the work because I would give it a good toss, only for it to roll back in on me.  The bells were still ringing.  Louder they sounded, reverberating the very grave I was standing in.  I was gasping for air, fighting to keep up the pace.  I had just managed to reach the lid when, from inside the coffin, I heard a bell shaking violently.  My Lord!  I did not expect this.  I would have never predicted this.  How is there a bell inside this coffin?  And more to the point, who is ringing it?  I was now afraid.  For the first time in my many weeks of being caretaker of this cemetery, I was entombed with horror.  I yelled at the coffin.  “Can you hear me?  Hello in there!  I am trying to get you out.” The ringing went silent as if whoever was encased in the box could hear me.  I addressed the coffin again, hoping to curtail this madness quickly. Once again, the thought of a bonus for this rescue entered my mind.  I doubted myself.  I questioned myself harshly; how could I be thinking of money at a time like this?  What sort of person was I?

Regardless of my motivation, I understood how important it was to attempt to save whoever was alive in this grave.  I said, “Ring your bell once if you can still hear me!”  The bell instantly rang.  That was good; they were still with me.  “It will take me a few minutes to finish the dig and to open the lid.  Will you be able to wait that long?” I asked.  The bell chimed again.  I commenced removing the mud from around the casket.  The lid was like standing on ice.  From the corner of my eye, I saw unusual movement from the wall of the grave.  The dirt and mud began to crumble onto the lid of the casket.  I desperately began scooping it out handfuls at a time.  From the wall, I saw something black sticking out.  It looked like a stick.  I pinched it between my fingers and pulled it out.  My scream could have awakened the dead.  Part of the wall caved in, releasing a nest of hairy black spiders.  Sharply growing panic forced me to the opposite end of the grave.  This was incredulous terror as I was suddenly suffocated in nausea.  Pervasive fear was having a real play with my emotions, and I will admit this was a rudimentary time of my terror, for a greater affliction came when thick, white maggots followed the spiders, dripping in a slimy clear gooey substance from the dirt wall.  I began swatting the spiders madly because their attention had been turned on me. I had no way of knowing if these were the kind that bit or were poisonous, but I did not want to find out.  I maintained distance from the black suckers and fended them away.  The ones that were not smashed climbed up and out of the grave into the night.  Meanwhile, the grotesque larval assault was in full battlement.  These newly hatched, hungry, legless Diptera larvae were squeezing out of the wall and plopping onto the lid of the coffin.  I yelled again, “Can you still hear me?” The bell rang.  That was a good sign that whoever was trapped in that box was well enough to communicate.  I dealt with this maggot infestation the same as with the spiders.  I smashed them over and over again until I was certain that there was no more threat.  I guess the real danger would have been myiasis, but that was remarkably unlikely. This was the first time I felt a chill.  The rain had grown colder and was still pouring down. There was now a puddle of water in the grave that refused to drain off.  My feet began to ache from the freezing water that had accumulated, but I had to see this through.  I got down on my hands and knees and with the pry bar, began to apply pressure to the lid.  This one was stuck tight.  Twice, the pry bar slipped from my hands, and I busted my knuckles on the lid.  I believe it was pretty bad because the pain shot into my wrist.  I was sure something was broken in my hand.  I could not become disillusioned though; someone’s life depended on me.  The bell began chiming again frantically.  It was a call for help, and I was there.  At long last, with all of the strength I had left in me, I broke the lid open and tumbled violently into the water.  Consequently, some terrific phenomenon occurred, which left me inarticulate.  The entire grave sank deeper.  It was as if there had been a hollow space under the casket, and I dropped at least 4 more feet, coming to a tectonic crash.  This ground movement now had me at least 8 feet or more down inside the earth.  The casket looked undamaged.  Picking myself up and with the excitement of saving the life imprudently buried, I went to the head of the coffin.

I was horror-stricken.  In my state of undeniable trauma, I winced and wrapped my arms around my shivering torso.  What I beheld was beyond belief.  This was the moment of unspeakable anguish.

It was I lying dead in the coffin.  I was in that death box.

I must have succumbed to the lack of oxygen because when I awakened from this horror, I was encased.  My panic had no longer driven my emotions because it was explicably clear to me.  No, this was not plausible, and it defied all logical thinking – but I was in my own casket with a cord around my wrist.  Memories as veiled as they seemed still painted a picture and revealed to me that I was no more.  I cannot be certain with any accuracy as to when, how, or where I had met my demise, but I understood that I was undeniably deceased.  I wondered if it was possible for me to move?  I was thinking, so I was conscious, and hopefully retained my motor skills.  But what if I had only appeared dead, and someone had carelessly assumed me dead, and in that negligence had failed and buried me in the ground?  As uncomfortable and as tight as this claustrophobic coffin was, I was able to move my arm.  I began wildly moving my wrist back and forth.  I could hear the bell ringing.  I could hear the bell.  It was as clear as crystal.  Oh God, let someone rescue me!

Within minutes I could hear shovels, more than one, digging, shoveling the dirt above me.  I yelled out, I cried out, I screamed and hollered in this insulated box.  How could anyone hear?  This was airtight, soundproof, so how was I able to attempt communications?  The diggers were on the lid now.  I listened to their heavy boots.  Someone was prying the lid.  I attempted to push in order to aid their heroic efforts, but I could no longer move my arms.  I thought, ‘these guys will get a bonus for sure.’  The lid opened.  I could see light.  It appeared to be daytime.  Two men looked straight at me.  I wanted to thank them, to express my sincere gratitude, but I was unable to speak or to move.  I could hear them,

“Looks like we’re too late.”

“Yeah, I thought we had saved one.”

“Okay, help me get the lid back on.”

I’m a dead ringer for the man in the box.

Rating: 10.00/10. From 1 vote.
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🎧 Available Audio Adaptations: None Available


Written by Dale Thompson
Edited by Craig Groshek
Thumbnail Art by Craig Groshek
Narrated by N/A

🔔 More stories from author: Dale Thompson


Publisher's Notes: N/A

Author's Notes: N/A

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Copyright Statement: Unless explicitly stated, all stories published on CreepypastaStories.com are the property of (and under copyright to) their respective authors, and may not be narrated or performed, adapted to film, television or audio mediums, republished in a print or electronic book, reposted on any other website, blog, or online platform, or otherwise monetized without the express written consent of its author(s).

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